Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine announced the launch of the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library program in Highland County at the Hillsboro Branch Library on Friday morning.
The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library is a partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which Parton founded in 1995. Parton’s program has given more than 1.5 million children over 133.8 million books.
Some of those books, DeWine said, went to her grandchildren.
“Mike and I first learned about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library from our grandkids,” DeWine said. “They were living with us for a couple of months while their house was being built, and they started getting these books in the mail. Immediately, they’d want to tear it open, and we’d read it to them. It’s just a wonderful, happy thing for children to actually get that book.”
DeWine, who is passionate about early childhood literacy, wanted to bring that to as many children as possible.
“When Mike became governor, I said, ‘Why can’t we do this statewide?’ There were about 24 counties in Ohio that already had the program, but I thought, ‘Why can’t we do this for every child?’” DeWine said. “I really want to start in inner cities, Appalachian counties, rural counties — these are the kids who need it the most, who don’t always get to go to the library.”
As of Friday, DeWine said around 60 counties were signed up for the program. By the end of the month, she expects to have 80 counties signed up. Her goal is to offer the program in all 88 Ohio counties.
“This effort by so many of us is going to make a huge difference for our kids,” DeWine said. “Reading is one of the single greatest things we can do for our kids and with our kids. It’s really an indicator of how they’re going to do later on in life. Brain science shows us that by the time a child turns 3 years old, 80 percent of their brain is developed. We can’t waste those early years — those are critical to their development. We want to make sure every child enters kindergarten with a good, strong start.”
DeWine encouraged all Highland County parents, grandparents and guardians to enroll their children in the program.
“This is really a great day. Starting today, every young child in every town and on every county road in Highland County can now receive free books from the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library,” DeWine said. “That’s 2,900 children who, from the time they’re born to the time they reach 5 years old, will be eligible to receive a new book every single month.”
A child enrolled in the program from birth to their fifth birthday, DeWine pointed out, would receive a total of 60 books.
All children, regardless of income level, who are under the age of 5 are eligible for the program. The program is free for the children and their families.
Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives is sponsoring the program in Highland County. The state is matching its contribution.
At the launch on Friday, Patrick Higgins, the director of communications for Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, said, “One of the primary tenets of the electric cooperative industry is concern for community, and that certainly starts with the youngest members of the community. We’re extremely happy to partner with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library and the people of Highland County to promote literacy and the joy of literature.”
To enroll a child in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library program, go to OhioImaginationLibrary.org.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.